Top 5: Travel Tech 2018
by Mark, Guest Blogger/husband to Erica
Everyone has their go-to travel gear. A favorite neck pillow, a makeup bag, lightweight luggage, or maybe even a stuffed travel companion panda. But we also carry a suite of travel tech to keep us connected and to document our amazing adventures. Between the phone, the service, and the apps that we use when we’re there, here’s a list of my essential travel tech that’ll power Erica and me through our travels in 2018.
Google Pixel / Pixel 2 (starting at $549 – Google Store)
You’ve probably seen many of the stunning photos taken from Erica’s travels and you might be surprised that they were taken on a smartphone. Smartphone cameras have been getting ridiculously good in the last few years and although they’re a bit late to the game, Google arrived on the scene last year with arguably the best smartphone camera in the business. As a long time iPhone user I was hesitant to make the move to a new phone and become a green bubble on people’s text message chains, but I really couldn’t have been happier with the switch. This thing takes really good photos. I mean look at this:
Looks photoshopped right? That was taken on my Pixel with no filter. I have since upgraded to the Pixel 2 and I’m surprised to say that it’s even better than the original. You’re all in for a treat in 2018 as we take this thing for a spin to some new picturesque locations.
Project Fi (https://fi.google.com)
Did you know that Google has their very own cell service? And it’s pretty darn cool. Imagine you’re flying over a new country making your final descent to the airport. You see unfamiliar buildings, maybe a few landmarks. Your plane touches down and you switch off airplane mode to see a popup welcoming you to your destination – you have full mobile coverage. What makes Project Fi awesome is that it works seamlessly in over 135 countries. Standing on a glacier? No problem. Taking a ferry across the Aegean Sea? Yep, that works too.
The plan has a $20 base fee plus $10 per gigabyte of data used and $0.20 per minute for phone calls abroad. What if you only use half a gigabyte? It’s only $5 then. And if you use 2.5 gigabytes? $25. No silly rollover data or losing what you don’t use. In the age of unlimited data, this might not be for everyone. But as a light data user, I can’t beat the simplicity of having a phone that instantly works when I travel. No need to buy a sim card or figure out how much it’ll cost to activate an international plan. It just works. Now before you go signing up, just know that it uses T-Mobile and Sprint networks here at home (and US Cellular when you can’t get LTE.) You can check out Open Signal to see how their coverage is where you live, work, and typically don’t get WiFi (pronounced “weefee” in much of the world. If you ask for the “wife-eye” password, they may not understand.) Oh, and Project Fi only works with a few phones (Pixel 1, Pixel 2 and Moto X4).
There are a lot of great ways to organize your travel itinerary. For our trip to Costa Rica, Erica printed out a binder with all of our hotel reservations, flight info, and some other information about our trip. Now, technology can do that for you! Google Trips links to your Gmail account to automatically gather all of the details about your trip based on order confirmations in your inbox. It aggregates your flight and hotel info into a convenient place you can reference at a moment’s notice. You can even create a detailed trip itinerary, mapping out the museums, sights, and activities you want to do, or use one of Google’s recommended plans. It also does a great job of recommending nearby restaurants for whatever you’re craving. And probably best of all, Google Trips integrates with Google Maps for easy directions and walking routes.
If you’re not using Google Maps on your phone, you’re missing out on some seriously smart technology. First, Google Maps allows you to download entire regions of maps directly to your phone. This means less data usage, and much faster loading of maps. Second, Google uses the enormous trove of data it has collected from Street View, Aerial View, and its users to provide you with an incredible map experience that you probably never even noticed. By glancing at a map of your destination city, you’ll quickly be able to identify parks, which Google highlights in green. A while back, Google also introduced “Areas of Interest,” which are highlighted areas of maps with high concentrations of shopping, restaurants, bars, and places with high foot traffic. If you’re out and about in a city and want to know where the action is, pull up a map and look for the highlighted areas. It can also pin your hotel or any reservations you might have for dinner / concerts / shows for quick reference. If you want to read a bit more about Google’s use of data in maps and how it finds these “Areas of Interest,” check out Google Maps’s Moat. It’s a fascinating read.
Can you spot some of the areas of interest and parks around London?
Okay, I tried keeping this all about Google, but I’d be absolutely remiss if I ignored TripAdvisor in my roundup. For those who have never used it, TripAdvisor is like Yelp, but for travel. Hotels, restaurants, museums, and other attractions around the world will often boast their high TripAdvisor rating or their “Certificate of Excellence.” What’s incredible is that TripAdvisor has been around for 18 years and has reviews in every single country in the world. TripAdvisor has helped us find some amazing restaurants, hotels, and experiences. With thousands of reviews from travelers around the world, it’s great way of gauging whether something is worth visiting.
TripAdvisor might help you avoid haunted hotels which scare you so badly that you can never use a period in sentences again.
Vacation is supposed to be a time to relax, step away from technology, and take in the sites around you. But making room for travel tech makes finding those breathtaking views, delicious meals, and comfortable beds so much easier.
Are there any apps or technology you can’t travel without? Let us know in the comments and we’ll take them for a spin on our next adventure.